When I think about the world I envision vs. where we are in reality, contemplating a way to get people psyched to the point of action gets a little lumpy. There are multitudes of ways we can effectuate change but one of the most rewarding things we all can do is get active within our communities. I believe that when people have a sense of community, the idea that we’re all in this together, great changes to our society will occur.
While our family and friends exist in our immediate circle of influence, our neighbors are fellow citizens breathing, literally, the same air, trying to get by in this crazy world. By getting to know those living in our neighborhood, We, the People can create a safer environment in which our kids benefit from the wisdom of elders, our elders can live independently longer and those of us in the middle can be the cornerstones of a compassionate and resourceful society.
In 2013, Trulia conducted a survey which showed that while two thirds of Americans like their neighbors, only about half of us know our neighbors’ names. This is a stark contrast to the fabled stories of America past: leaving your doors unlocked at night; kids exploring the neighborhood all day long with nary a check in until dark; borrowing a cup of sugar from the family across the street.
If we want to create a safer and happier America, let’s start by making it so for the areas close to home: our neighborhoods.
Whether you live in an apartment complex downtown, a sub-division in the suburbs or a trailer court on the outskirts of town, here are some steps we can all take to ‘be the change we want to see in the world:”
- Get out of the damn house. You can’t get to know your neighbors if you never leave the four walls of your home. Sit on your porch or go for a walk. Say hello when you see another human (or animal). It sounds simple, and it really is. But how many times have you passed a neighbor on the street or stood with them in an elevator without as much as a nod? A smile and a hello can be the beginning of a lifelong relationship.
- Stop for a chat. 21st Century life is busy! The hustle and bustle of everyday life makes us feel as though we don’t have time to do much of anything other than our daily routine. Take time out of your day and speak words to a neighbor. Talk about the weather, an upcoming local event, kids, grandkids, whatever. Breaking the ice with one good conversation can make a huge difference. Even the grouchiest of neighbors can’t help but smile if you compliment their flower bed.
- Offer a hand. We all struggle and not everyone likes to ask for help. If you see someone having a hard time, offer an assist. It may be a mother trying to unload groceries while managing a toddler or an elderly neighbor struggling to get their trash to the street. Volunteer to shovel a neighbor’s driveway or mow their grass. If you’re lucky, someone will be there to help you one day when you need it.
- Network. Getting to know your neighbors can lead to both personal and professional advancements. Not only can you expand your circle of friends, you may find folks who share a professional vision that could very well lead to successes beyond your wildest dreams. You never know until you try.
- Welcome new residents. Get a few of your already-neighbor-friends together and meet the new guys. Introduce yourself and let them know of local businesses and services that are available. Let them know what you love about your neighborhood and what’s being done on the reg to improve it. Invite them to an upcoming event or see if they have any needs you could help get met.
- Organize neighborhood events. Have an annual neighborhood yard sale. Organize a block party. Hold a neighborhood cleanup day. Build a bonfire (with proper permitting, of course). Getting the neighborhood together to socialize or for a good cause can create a unity that will go miles in getting what we all want for our neighborhoods: a safe place to enjoy our homes.
Did I miss something? Share your ideas for building stronger neighborhoods in the comment section! I can’t wait to hear from you!